2201 N. Clybourn Ave. 773-472-9920
Rating: 3 (out of four) Off to a good start
When I first heard that The Drinkingbird was opening in Lincoln Park with a throwback, '60s cocktail lounge vibe (kitsch and highball glasses included), I was nervous. All too often, new bars hope to draw in crowds by offering complicated drinks that the staff isn't trained to handle, pairing them with close-but-not-quite upgraded bar bites. Lucky for me (and you), The Drinkingbird seemed to have everything in order just a few days after its mid-May opening, with both drinks and music flowing and top-notch service already in place. Here's why you shouldn't miss out on this new corner bar.
Location, location, location: Any bar within (very) short walking distance of Lincoln Park's Webster Place movie theater screams "Date night!" Nestled just beyond the theater's parking lot in the former Flounder's space, The Drinkingbird is sure to see plenty of pre- and post-movie revelers and neighborhood groups alike. A short walk from the Ashland bus and a doable hike to the Brown Line means visiting from nearby 'hoods is also an option.
Social butterflies go wild: The prize for best view in the house goes to the two tables near the accordion windows on either side of the front door. In addition to catching the best breeze, your group can enjoy your own super-quick escape route if you see someone you know strolling down Clybourn. No friends in the neighborhood? No problem. Perch at these window seats with a plate of fries and you're bound to meet a few.
Drink up: In its past life, The Drinkingbird was a divey sports bar where beer and simple drinks reigned. But to match the laid-back Vegas-lounge decor (think printed wallpaper and pops of color) the drink menu has been upgraded to feature a short list of classics and punches. Priced from $9-$11, they're a bit more than you'll usually pay at such a low-key hangout, but they're well worth the few extra dollars (and minutes). Head straight for the Fish House Punch ($9), a refreshingly spicy blend of rum, cognac, lemon and lime juice, simple syrup and nutmeg combined with just enough peach liqueur to give it a smooth, summery feel. The bar's version of the zombie ($11), a tiki classic, combines three kinds of rum (including tiki essential Lemon Hart 151) falernum, house-made grenadine, lime juice, absinthe and bitters—and it will knock you out. As my server warned, you might not want to start the night with this one.
Fill up: If you're going to be indulging in a zombie or two, you're going to need some padding. The menu leans on heavy comfort-food small plates with a burger thrown in for good measure. Fries ($6) are served with a particularly addictive garlic aioli and deviled eggs ($8) come propped up on small piles of pimento cheese that ended up being spread on the eggs by me and my clearly-not-concerned-with-cholesterol friends.
Explore: Don't be stuck to your barstool all night when you visit—there's plenty going on in the back. With snazzy red rounded booths, the seating gets cozier and there's even a pool table as you work your way to the back of the long room. Just beyond, you'll find a charming back patio with seating for 26.
The little extras: Keep an eye out for the retro plastic swizzle sticks served with each cocktail, which currently feature a picture of the bar's mascot—the iconic drinking bird toy—and the phrase "Famous for nothing." My server mentioned they're thinking of rotating the design from time to time, and I definitely found one stashed in my purse the next morning.
Bottom line: The Drinkingbird is solid fun, with some can't-miss cocktails and snacks in a great location on the west side of Lincoln Park. If you're not within walking distance, keep it on your list for movie theater pre-gaming or a bite to eat after.
firstname.lastname@example.org | @redeyedrinks. Reviewers visit bars unannounced and meals are paid for by RedEye.